Superbowl Of Weed
Fully baked at the 12th annual Cannabis Cup

Ihave returned to the scene of the crime, Amsterdam. It's the 12th annual Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times magazine. On the bus from the airport in Amsterdam, passengers immediately start smoking marijuana. Someone gives out loaded chocolate-chip cookies. We pass buildings spray-painted with graffiti, and a young guy wearing a "Cannabis Inspector" T-shirt comments, "Hey, I seen that same tag in the Bronx." He rolls a "gunther" -- a big fattie joint.

See also...
... by Paul Krassner
... in the Scope section
... from December 6, 1999

I'm pleasantly dizzy by the time I check in at the funky old Quentin Hotel, which is completely taken over by Cup attendees. In the lobby, a gigantic painting of Keith Richards watches over the guests who are sitting around at wooden tables smoking pot. Where the hell do they think they are, on a bus? In my room, the tiled floor in the bathroom is slanted from every direction toward the shower drain, so whether you're standing at the sink or sitting on the toilet, you're always leaning at an angle. At first I assume this disorientation is because of that chocolate-chip cookie I ate on the bus.

From my window, I can see people on bicycles, red trolley cars, green-and-white tourist boats along the canal, and the word SHIT spray-painted in two-foot-high letters on the adjoining building. It was there two years ago, when I was here for the 10th annual Cannabis Cup. I recall that Mountain Girl, queen of the Merry Pranksters, had such a large stash that she wrapped it carefully and hid it in the laundry room of the hotel for later experimentation. Two years later, that's still there too. I borrow a small bud of "Dr. Kevorkian," and yes, it's still killer weed. I'm tempted to spray-paint the word GOOD on that building so that it will read GOOD SHIT.

The owners of coffee shops that sell grass and hash along with coffee and tea will vote on which of 16 strains of marijuana is the best. They have brand names like Stonehenge, Purple Sage, Yellow Cab, The Real McCoy, Power Plant, Siberian Tiger, Big Bang, and Bubble Gum. In 1994, Sensi Seeds produced a new strain of marijuana, four years in development, and christened it "Jack Herer." Never before had a brand of pot been named after a person.

Jack Herer -- author of the underground bestseller, The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana...and How Hemp Can Save the World, has become a brand name. "It's like Robert Burns tobacco," Herer muses, "or Baron de Rothchild wines, or even right up there with -- eat your heart out -- Ernest and Julio Gallo. Long after I've died, people will be smoking Jack Herer." We pluck no weed before its time.

Judges vote "Jack Herer" number one in virtually all categories. Meanwhile, he can't even bring back a baggie of his own namesake so that he can smoke himself in the privacy of his own home. Of course, one solution is to simply spend more time in Amsterdam. Like Al Goldstein, who is attending the Cup this year. The corpulent publisher of Screw was visiting Amsterdam a few years ago and ate a pot brownie because he was hungry. It got him totally zonked out of his pornographic mind, and he now keeps an apartment in Amsterdam, for easy access not only to marijuana, but also to the red light district.

Nancy Cain is videotaping the Cannabis Cup. I ask, "Have you gotten any good footage?" She laughs. "Oh, sure," she replies, "I have five hours of a bunch of white guys coughing a lot." The event certainly does seem to be overwhelmingly testosteronic. Ironically, at a previous competition, the wives of several Dutch judges lambasted "the forced separation of male and female plants." Moreover, there was a staged demonstration against the seedless sinsemilla.

Now, on the sidewalk in front of an apartment window, a group of men are busy ogling a hooker inside. She is wearing a skimpy maid's outfit, primping and prancing as she attempts to attract a customer. One man knocks on the door and asks about her prices, but he doesn't stay. Nancy, standing at the curb, has her camera focused on the scene. When the woman in the window sees this, she quickly fills a glass with water, opens the door, and throws the water at Nancy. It comes in giant, surrealistic droplets -- and next she throws the glass itself, which hits Nancy on the leg, then shatters on the street. Despite the outrageous openness of the way she practices her profession, this prostitute is trying to protect her personal sense of dignity and privacy. I'll smoke to that.

There are 2000 celebrants at the Cannabis Cup, including eight individuals in wheelchairs, and they are all smoking up a THC storm. A Dutch woman is laughing at how these people -- not just from around the United States, but also from England, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, France, Australia -- are making such a fuss over something she takes completely for granted.

Most of the visiting folks are young, but there's a psychology professor from Philadelphia in his 50s who wanted a vacation that would be "different." He is surprised to meet so many friendly and intelligent potheads. Even before they talk, there is an unspoken bond.

Just from eavesdropping on conversations at the Cup, you can learn that Queen Victoria smoked marijuana when she had her period, that Beat novelist William Burroughs "was on everything but skates," and that there will be a Mushroom Conference in Telluride. You can buy hemp lollipops, hemp wine, and swiss cheese with hemp. Artist Laurence Cherniak is hustling Hemp Culture Playing Cards. Each card features a different brand. His favorite is Nepalese Royal, the ace of spades -- "the strongest of all suits," he says. "If ya got four aces, the ace of spades wins."

Every day at the Cannabis Cup, the High Times radio show, "High On the Air," is hosted by a Steve Martin wannabe, Callum Francis. He entertains the audience with quizzes. Sample: "Where does the Seattle Hemp Fest take place?" He compiles stoner expressions overheard at the Cup: "Whoa!" "Dude!" "What?" "Huh?" "Cool!" He invents Top Ten lists, such as the top ten excuses to give a Customs agent who finds pot in your luggage. My favorite: "They told me this was what tulips look like before they flowered."

And so, at last, it came to pass that when a Customs agent questioned me at the airport upon my return to Los Angeles, she asked me if I had bought any tulip seeds, and I made the mistake of laughing out loud. Apparently, that's a suspicious act. As a result, my luggage was emptied out onto a long table for her colleague to inspect. He made sarcastic remarks about my new book, Pot Stories For the Soul (High Times Books), about an unpublished manuscript titled The Revolution by GettingIt editor R.U. Sirius, and particularly about my notes on "How to Smuggle Hashish."

But this was all material protected by the 1st Amendment, and he found nothing incriminating.

I was neither X-rayed nor given a laxative -- although I would have welcomed the latter because I was slightly constipated. It wouldn't have made any difference. Oh, sure, I was tempted to bring back pot -- there was so much available that I was actually throwing away roaches -- but I'd been smart, and did my smuggling the old-fashioned way -- in a "space cake" that I ate at the Amsterdam airport.

Paul Krassner's other new book is Impolite Interviews (Seven Stories Press) and his new comedy CD is Sex, Drugs and the Antichrist (Artemis Records).